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A conspiracy theory about Jony Ive's 'promotion' just got more juice

jony ive, apple, sv100 2015
jony ive, apple, sv100 2015

(Kimberly White/Getty) Apple Senior Vice President of Design Jony Ive during 'Genius by Design' at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco, October 9, 2014.

Apple updated the bio pages for its executives to reflect new roles and new responsibilities for Jony Ive.

Ive was previously SVP of design. He has since been promoted to chief design officer.

Two people that were previously working for him have been given expanded responsibilities. Richard Howarth is now VP of Industrial Design. Alan Dye is now VP of User Interface Design.

These moves were announced in May, so they were to be expected. However, the new bios add a bit of intrigue to their moves.

According to their bios, Dye and Howarth report to Tim Cook, not Ive. This is a bit surprising since Dye and Howarth are taking over things that were previously Ive's responsibilities. It would have made more sense for them to report to Ive instead of Cook.

Cook now has 17 direct reports, which is a lot. Jack Welch, the legendary GE CEO, believed CEOs should only have 10-15 direct reports.

Richard Howarth Apple
Richard Howarth Apple

Why are they reporting to Cook instead of Ive? The logical explanation is that Cook is the ultimate boss, so it makes sense for them to report straight into the boss. But, if you like conspiracy theories, there's an alternative explanation for this reporting line.

When Ive's new role was announced at the end of May, fund manager Eric Jackson speculated that the reason Ive was getting a new title and responsibilities was to shield his salary from the public.

Every other major executive at Apple has his (or her) compensation disclosed through the SEC. Ive does not.

Jackson talked to "a prominent securities lawyer who wished to remain anonymous" to figure out how Ive can get away with keeping his pay a secret. In short, Ive doesn't have to disclose his salary as long as he doesn't have a policymaking role or lead a business segment, says Jackson.

As head of design he was clearly influencing policy, something that would get the SEC's attention. Now, he has no direct reports, so Apple can tell the SEC to buzz off.

Ive's compensation, which is likely substantially greater than most people at Apple, can remain a secret.

While this is a fun theory to play around with, it seems like a lot to go through just to keep Ive's paycheck secret. The most likely explanation is that Ive didn't enjoy the day-to-day managerial responsibilities, so he handed off some duties to Dye and Howarth. The ability keep his compensation private is a nice bonus.

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